The swirling force of Texas politics

Perry Tells White to Quit Governor's Race

By JAY ROOT
|  Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010  |  Updated 9:01 PM CDT
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Perry Tells White to Quit Governor's Race

Gov. Rick Perry and former Houston Mayor Bill White.

Republican Gov. Rick Perry accused Democratic challenger Bill White of "profiteering" from Hurricane Rita and said White should drop out of the race if he can't clear up the allegations.

Perry said White should "immediately resign from the race for governor" if he can't better explain an investment he made months after the storm. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that White put $1 million into an energy company that he had enlisted for help after the 2005 hurricane.

White's campaign said the former Houston mayor had done nothing wrong. White spokeswoman Katy Bacon said Perry had "sunk to new lows" by urging White to get out of the race, calling the attacks "absolutely appalling."

White acknowledged Tuesday that he made money by investing in a company, BTEC Turbines, hired to help the region recover from the storm. White also had served on BTEC's board of directors.

As the storm was walloping parts of Houston, White said he asked BTEC to help provide power generators to ensure the Houston-area refineries and the adjoining city of Baytown could maintain their water supply during the power outages.

The company ended up getting a $1.8 million contract from the regional Coastal Water Authority to provide the generators, the White campaign said. White explained BTEC's role in the hurricane recovery efforts Tuesday after releasing his tax returns dating back to 2004.

About a year after Rita, White invested about $1 million in the privately held BTEC, and reported more than $500,000 in profits from the investment.

White says he took a personal financial stake in BTEC for the same reason he called them during a crisis: because the company performed well.

Though Perry generally lets his aides engage in the daily attacks on his opponent, the governor jumped into the fray himself Wednesday. In a written statement, Perry repeated his campaign's call for an investigation into the issue and said he should resign if wrongdoing is uncovered.

"For the mayor of Houston to engage in profiteering during a tragedy is unacceptable and local authorities should investigate this alleged violation of public trust," Perry said. "Bill White has an obligation to the people of Texas to address these allegations immediately."

A couple of hours after Perry issued his written statement, White fired back with his own. The Democratic lawyer and businessman stressed he had no financial interest in BTEC at the time the contract, and had stepped down from the board of directors before he became mayor. White said he called the company during the storm because power was needed to keep water flowing to crucial refineries and population centers and he knew BTEC could help out.

White said Perry was using the controversy to duck a debate with him. Perry's campaign has said the governor will not debate White until he releases more tax returns.

"I had no financial interest in BTEC during the time of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," White said. "I was part of a crisis team that took action, and I think the proof is in the results."

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